Trans woman killed herself after spending 1,000 days on NHS waiting lists

Alice Litman with her mother
The Litman family were warned that high demand made Gender Identity Clinic waiting times unpredictable - South Coast news

A 20-year-old transgender woman killed herself after spending more than 1,000 days on NHS waiting lists at Tavistock, an inquest heard.

Alice Litman was referred to the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in August 2019.

But she was still waiting for an initial assessment almost three years later and killed herself in May 2022.

Her family told an inquest that the NHS had “failed” the young woman, saying “gatekeepers” had prevented her from getting the support and gender treatment she desperately needed.

The inquest, at Sussex County Cricket Ground in Hove, heard that while feeling “hopeless and in despair” she made two previous suicide attempts.

After the attempts in June and December 2019, she continued struggling to receive gender care and mental health support.

Alice’s mother, who attended the inquest with Alice’s father, Peter, and brother and sister, Harvey and Kate, condemned the delays as a former NHS psychiatrist.

‘Failed by the healthcare systems meant to support her’

Dr Caroline Litman said: “There were significant and ongoing delays in accessing gender affirming care. My daughter could have lived a happy and healthy life if she had not been failed by the healthcare systems that were meant to support her.

“I felt that I was repeatedly unable to get my daughter past the gatekeepers for mental health treatment and gender-affirming care. I felt and continue to feel immense shame and responsibility that, as a mother who used to work as a psychiatrist for the NHS, I struggled to get the help for my child that she so obviously needed.”

Alice first came to the attention of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in 2017 when she began suffering from severe anxiety and low moods.

She received group therapy which was helpful but her low moods continued.

In early 2018, she went to see a GP in her hometown of Leatherhead, Surrey. Dr Litman said the GP failed to take her daughter’s requests for help seriously.

In September 2018, Alice then told her sister that she wanted to live her life as a woman and went for an appointment with another GP, where she told the doctor about her gender identity problems.

Dr Litman said this doctor suggested a “watch and wait” approach and did not make a referral to GIDS. It wasn’t until after her first suicide attempt in June 2019 that Alice was finally referred for treatment.

‘High demand’

In August 2019, GIDS confirmed they had received the referral but warned: “Due to high demand we have found waiting times at GIDS incredibly hard to predict. Currently we are seeing young people for assessment who were referred 24 months ago”.

The inquest heard that, from then on, Alice began to transition, wearing make-up and changing her name.

But her low moods declined again when she realised there was a long waiting list for gender identity treatment.

When she turned 18 in February 2020, the referral was transferred to the adult Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at the Tavistock Clinic.

The family continued to try and find private gender care for Alice but, on a visit home in Easter 2022, Dr Litman told her that even private waiting lists at the London Transgender Clinic were long because of a rapid rise in referrals after increasing NHS backlogs with the GIC.

During the same visit, Alice confessed to her mother she was having thoughts of suicide.

Alice was found suffering from multiple injuries on the Undercliff Walk, near Roedean School in Brighton in the early hours of May 26.

The inquest, which is expected to last three days, continues.

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